Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of State Robert Lansing to United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page

FOR INFORMATION    CORRECTED

                   PARAPHRASE         In 22

February 14, 1918.     

TO        American Embassy, London.

FROM      Department of State, signed LANSING

DATED     February 13th, 1918. 8 p.m.

RECEIVED  February 14th, 1918.10 m.

NO. 6563

     On the suggestion made by the Navy Department negotiations were opened with the Government of Portugal for the institution of a United States Naval Base at the Azores which transaction contained certain concessions to be made to the American Government by the Government of Portugal in order to give satisfactory protection to this base for the time being. Among these concessions is the request for permission to land an advance base of marines made up of 3,000 men and 17 guns, on any of the islands of the Azores group if necessary.

     The Portug<u>ese Government, in view of certain rumours which have been spread about to the effect that after the war the United States would not evacuate the Azores, are apparently reluctant to grant landing passports for the above-mentioned marines, fearing the effect on public opinion should these men make a landing.

     The American Minister at Lisbon1 has received telegraphic instructions despatched to-day from the Department to the effect that the force to be landed is a naval force sent solely for the purpose of assuring the safety of the base and relieving the Government of Portugal to some extent of the responsibility of providing increased protection for this port which will be necessary if used as a base by our naval forces.

     He was also instructed to emphasise the fact that his Government guarantees to withdraw this force as soon as possible after the advent of peace.

     In order that Portugal may be persuaded that her own interests as well as those of her Allies will best be served by this friendly concession, it has been suggested that the good offices of the British Government should be enlisted in this matter. You are therefore instructed to take up the matter informally with the Foreign Office and ascertain whether it would care to direct the British Minister at Lisbon to aid his American colleague in effecting a favourable conclusion with the Government of Portugal.2

<Lansing.>

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: United States Ambassador to Portugal Thomas H. Birch.

Footnote 2: Portugal’s fears about the United States weakening its hold on the Azores were not unfounded. The local population received the U.S. Navy with great enthusiasm, and the Portuguese government based its fears that the Americans had no plans to leave after the war in part on reports that the people of the Azores held the same belief. The British did press the Portuguese government to be more cooperative with the United States, and later played a role in forcing the recall of pro-German Portuguese officials on the islands. The United States kept its promise not to remain after hostilities ended, with the last vessels departing on 15 September 1919.  Seward W. Livermore, “The Azores in American Strategy-Diplomacy” The Journal of Modern History 20 no. 3 (Sept. 1948), 197-211.

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